Lack of symptoms could prove deadly.

Position:Aortic Disease

Nearly 10,000 Americans die each year due to thoracic aortic disease (TAD), a rare condition that affects roughly 15,000 people annually and often goes undiagnosed due to the lack of symptoms. However, more and more research is showing the hereditary links of aortic aneurysms and, in recent years, clinical guidelines have been established by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association that offer recommendations for the diagnosis and management of TAD.

"Thoracic aortic aneurysms are usually triggered by atherosclerosis--or hardening of the arteries--caused by plaque that ultimately damages the artery's walls," explains Mateo Dayo, a cardiovascular, thoracic, and vascular surgeon at the Venice-Ocala Heart Institute, Venice, Fla.

"When the wall weakens, the wall abnormally expands or bulges as blood is pumped through it. Eventually, the wall cannot stretch any further and tears or ruptures, causing a medical emergency."

It is important to know if a patient has a family history of TAD because research indicates that there are hereditary trends with the condition. Preventive screenings are important for these individuals to ensure that early diagnosis is possible to manage the condition and provide treatment while the patient is stable.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms tend to go unnoticed because nearly half of all patients do not feel any...

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